Drawing New District Lines Starts Albany Brawl
Assembly Democrats and state senate Republicans issued their new district maps for this year’s congressional and state legislative elections and they’re everything most reformers expected—self-serving exercises tailored to get most incumbents re-elected and keep the Assembly under Democratic control and enhance the Republicans’ chances of capturing the senate again.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who predicted (like many others that this would be the outcome), didn’t vow to veto them if they pass the legislature but stated, “The maps are unacceptable. I think anyone who looks at the maps will see the political machinations. You don’t have to look hard.”
Obviously, the governor will continue to monitor the situation because joint hearings will start shortly by the legislature with a final vote set for late this month. The new district lines must be ready for this year’s primary and general elections, so there is some urgency to come to a conclusion on the final product.
There could also be complications if Cuomo decides to veto the legislative lines. His first preference would have been to have an appointed nonpartisan commission to draw the lines, but the lawmakers wouldn’t go along with that. It’s likely the governor will await the outcome of the hearings, which will probably spark some bargaining between the two houses that will eliminate some of the more blatantly objectionable aspects of the lines released last week.
The senate’s proposed maps, according to varied sources, adversely affected five Democratic incumbents: state Senators Michael Gianaris (Astoria) and Jose Peralta (Corona) in one instance; Toby Ann Stavisky (Whitestone) and Tony Avella (Bayside) in another and Joseph Addabbo Jr. (Howard Beach).
In the Gianaris-Peralta situation, it appears the GOP was sharpening its knives to get Gianaris, who also is his party’s chief fundraiser for the elections this year, in which control of the senate could go either way.
The GOP map makers moved Gianaris’ residence one block from its present location into the same district as Peralta in a proposed new district.
Following release of the proposed senate lines, Gianaris and Peralta issued comments.
Gianaris stated: “With this brazenly political proposal, senate Republicans have done more in one day for the cause of independent redistricting than advocates like myself accomplished after years of advocacy.
“Today, senate Republicans return us to the days when Albany was the most dysfunctional capital in the nation by bringing Tom Delay’s brand of politics to New York. The people of this state will not stand for it, and neither should we.”
Peralta stated: “This is a case of petty election year politics as arrogant as it is obvious. The pledges to redistricting reform by Republicans clearly are not worth the ink used to sign them. If they have at least minimal respect for voters, Republicans will spare New Yorkers further hypocrisy and keep to themselves ridiculous claims that their bold-faced power grab was done in the name of minority enfranchisement.”
Stirring up more trouble, the Republicans placed the residences of both Stavisky and Avella into a single proposed new district in Northeast Queens. Avella, a former councilmember, was elected to the senate in the 2009 election, defeating then state senator Frank Padavan, a Republican, who had held the seat for more than 35 years.
There was also talk that the senate Republicans had created a new seat in the Flushing area which could be tailored to elect the first Asian ever to the senate. Reports said no incumbent lawmaker lived within its boundaries, meaning neither Stavisky nor Avella is connected with it. But it was also described as stretching into Bayside and Little Neck, suggesting that it was near Avella’s present district.
In Addabbo’s case, the Republicans extended his southeast district to take in a part of the Rockaways, which they could be figuring would give Councilmember Eric Ulrich a little more voting strength against Addabbo. Presently, Ulrich’s city council district and Addabbo’s senate district each cover parts of Ozone Park and Howard Beach.
Addabbo, also a former councilmember, won his senate seat by defeating former Republican state Senator Serphin Maltese, who had held the seat for about 20 years.
Republicans also sought to help their cause by creating a 63 senate district in a Democratic area near Albany. They reportedly have recruited a candidate who they feel could win there, but Democrats are not happy with the idea and feel another senate seat should be created in the New York City area which Democrats say is justified because it has the necessary population.
Meanwhile, in stories about the proposed new lines Assembly Democrats were drawing, it was reported that they also were creating another Asian district based in Flushing. This district would not be in conflict with the seat already held by Assemblymember Grace Meng, which also covers a part of Flushing. But the district was said to affect the districts presently held by Assemblymembers David Weprin (Great Neck) and Rory Lancman (Fresh Meadows).
Following release of the proposed Assembly lines to members, Weprin released a statement in which he stated his “opposition to the changes made” to his 24th AD. He stated further, “…our goal must be to ensure that the proposed maps reflect lines that represent a fair and independent process and keep communities of interest together.”
He added: “Northeast Queens is a special and distinct geographic region, whose residents and community leaders have voiced their desire to be kept together in a contiguous district, rather than be divided.”
CROWLEY REMEMBERS: In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day as a day for every member state of the U.N. to honor the victims of the Holocaust and develop education programs to help prevent future genocides.
Last Friday, January 27, Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), recalling that day was “the anniversary of the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, and stated:
“Today, I join millions throughout the world in paying tribute to those who perished or lost family members at the hands of the Nazis. The evil this world witnessed is forever ingrained in our history and seared into our consciousness. This day is also an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to ensuring such atrocities never happen again. We must stand up against oppression and speak out against hate. Silence, indifference and complacency can never again be tolerated.”
Crowley recalled that in 2005, he had participated in the historic U.N. General Assembly Special Session to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Allied liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps on Jan. 27, 1945, and the Special Session that formally established International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Crowley was a strong supporter of the effort and worked with foreign embassies in Washington, D.C. to encourage them to send a formal letter to then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan supporting International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
DROMM STATEMENT: Last Sunday, Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) issued a statement dealing with “houses of worship meeting in New York City public schools”. It stated:
“The founders of this country in their wisdom declared in the First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” by prohibiting the establishment of a state religion.
WEPRIN REPEATS: “DIVIDE THE 105TH PRECINCT: Councilmember Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens), who has been advocating since the late 1990s the dividing of the 105th Precinct in Eastern Queens into two different sections, joined last week with two other lawmakers to repeat that proposal.
Meeting with state Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember Edward C. Braunstein, (both D–Bayside), Weprin declared his support for legislation the two officials have introduced in Albany to divide the 105th Precinct, which spreads from the North Shore Towers to Kennedy Airport.
Weprin in 1998, criticized then Mayor Rudy Giuliani for “establishing a police precinct in Lower Manhattan while neglecting Eastern Queens. Weprin believes the precinct is too large for effective police coverage.
ACKERMAN BETS ON GIANTS: Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D–Bayside/L.I.) says he’s betting Massachusetts colleague Mike Capuano that the N.Y. Giants will defeat the New England Patriots in Sunday’s titanic Super Bowl clash.
Ackerman is putting up matzo ball soup and a kosher corned beef sandwich on club from Ben’s Best Deli in Rego Park. Capuano is countering with a clam chowder and clam rolls from his favorite eatery, Legal Seafoods, a popular chain in his district in Boston.
Ackerman says he and his Democratic cohort agree on most things, but “the Super Bowl is clearly not one of them.” He’s confident, “The Giants are going all the way, and I look forward to feasting on delicious Massachusetts seafood while savoring Big Blue’s victory. Go Giants!”
ADDABBO: SHOULD RAISE AGE TO GAMBLE TO 21: Citing studies that show allowing gambling in casinos at age 18 may be harmful and addictive, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) feels the minimum age to legally gamble in a state casino should be raised to 21.
Addabbo, a strong supporter of bringing full fledged casino gambling to New York state, said:
“While gambling provides the allure of easy riches, the reality is that high school and college aged individuals are more likely to develop a pathological obsession with gambling similar to alcohol abuse.”
The lawmaker cited as proof of this a study published a few years ago by the Council On Alcoholism and Addiction of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. Called Raising the Gambling Age to 21 in New York State, it showed, Addabbo said:
“The earlier in life when a person begins gambling, the more likely it is that they will experience symptoms that correlate with pathological gambling. Research has shown that gambling at a young age is a trigger for alcohol abuse, drug use and criminal behavior later in life.”
Addabbo also said “youngsters are more inclined to gamble than older individuals”. In support of this, he cited an organization, Youth Gambling International, which has said that, “Young adults, 18 to 21, are three times more likely to have problems associated with gambling.”
The lawmaker also added: “Addiction professionals point to delaying the exposure of young people to problems as a means of prevention. Making the gambling age 21 would ensure that there’s a smaller likelihood that the youth in the state develop gambling addictions.”
MILLER OPPOSES CHANGE ON 84TH ST.: The city Department of Transportation (DOT) wants to change 84th St. in Woodhaven from northbound one-way to southbound one-way from Liberty Avenue to Atlantic Avenue and it has sparked lots of discussion in the community.
Last week, Assemblymember Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven), the area’s representative came out against the proposed change. Miller stated:
“This proposal does not take the needs of the community into consideration. 84th Street is one of the only paths drivers have to go from Ozone Park, over Atlantic Avenue into Woodhaven. The alternatives are to go out of the way or to sit in traffic on Woodhaven Boulevard. I am pleased that a public hearing is taking place so residents of the community can voice their concerns and everyone can see how much of a headache this street change would be. I was always taught as a kid, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”
The hearing is set for tonight (Feb. 1) at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Ozone Park at 7 p.m.
HALLORAN SEEKS MORE TIME TO CONTEST TAX ASSESSMENTS: Councilmember Dan Halloran (R–Whitestone) has requested more time for co-op owners to contest their real estate tax assessments because the city Department of Finance was two days late in releasing the property tax rolls.
In a statement, Halloran said that the department increased the assessed values on many middle class co-op owners.
“The least it can do is give them an extension in contesting their assessments,” Halloran said. “We know that sometimes mistakes in assessments have been made. Co-op owners deserve more time to make sure their rates are as fair as possible.”
Halloran noted that currently, the deadline to contest assessments is March 1 for Tax Class 2, which includes cooperatives. He wants that deadline extended to March 15.
GOP HOLDS CANDIDATE SCHOOL 2012: Queens Republicans again held “a candidate school” for any of their party members who are planning to run or may want to explore running for election this year.
In November, elections will be held for president of the U.S., and for every congressional and state legislative post. Democrats hold most of those jobs so there are plenty of opportunities for Republicans to choose a spot and go for it.
Queens Republican Leader Phil Ragusa put the welcome mat out for all prospective candidates last Sunday at the Adria Hotel & Conference Center in Bayside.
Ragusa, who inaugurated the candidates school idea when he became GOP leader several years ago, stated.
“I am very pleased that we are continuing to provide this essential service to all our prospective candidates. Running for office is never easy and we have some of the most experienced campaign operatives in the state to help guide these recruits, most of whom are novices. I’m especially proud of my candidate recruitment team, particularly Robert Hornak, who has worked so hard to pull this amazing seminar together.”
“Teachers” at the session were former U.S. Senate candidate Jay Townsend, state GOP Finance Director Jason Weingartner and Urban Elephants blogger Daniel Peterson. Councilmember Dan Halloran, who scored a surprise victory in the last City Council elections, also spoke.
MALONEY INVITES ASTORIA EX-GI TO OBAMA SPEECH: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) had an Astorian as a special guest in Washington D.C. for President Obama’s State of the Union address. He was Army veteran Robert Song, who served in Afghanistan. Maloney invited Song, who interned in her Washington office and is now in med school. He was one of several ex-GIs invited for the speech by Democratic lawmakers.
Song, a graduate of West Point, served in the Army from 2004-2008, during which he served patrolling the Pakistan, Afghanistan border. He has been studying medicine at Columbia University since last year.
GOLDFEDER HAILS MORE CAB SERVICE IN QUEENS: Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder applauded the new law under which livery cars will be able to pick up patrons who hail them on street runs.
“It’s no secret that transportation options in Southern Queens is a challenge, so any increase in transportation options is a win for Queens,” said the Rockaways rep. “This new plan will afford those in the community, especially those who need it most, with a greater access to taxi cab service in and around the city.”
BORO GOP CHAIRS CHALLENGE MAYOR: Recently Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated his opinion that the new New York City mayor elected in 2013 to succeed him will be a Democrat. Responding last week, the Republican Party county chairmen from Queens, Brooklyn. The Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island disagreed with Mayor Bloomberg, saying… “We will field a strong winning candidate for mayor in 2013.”
The GOP officials—Phil Ragusa (Queens), Joseph Savino (The Bronx), Craig Eaton (Brooklyn), Robert Scamardella (Staten Island) and Daniel Isaacs (Manhattan)—declared:
“We believe that New York City’s voters will select a Republican candidate as they have done since 1993. City voters will not want to return New York to the pre-1993 dark days of rampant crime, corruption, incompetence and special interest politics.”
In 1993, Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor and served for two terms, from 1994 to 2001. In 2001, Bloomberg was elected and will complete three terms when he retires at the end of 2013.
The Republican leaders noted, “New Yorkers remember Mayor Giuliani establishing that Republican management works, and they appreciate that Republican-endorsed Mayor Bloomberg has continued that legacy. City voters want to keep New York going and going strong and that is going to take Republican leadership.”